How Do I Defriend Thee? Let Me Count The Ways

It’s often been said that high school is the most important time of our lives, but that’s rarely followed up with the reason why. In the end, it’s simple: No matter how many years you spend in high school, you never leave.


The latest evidence of this comes in the form of a study of Facebook — social networking being the virtual extension of high school as it is  — which sought to discover the reasons that users will defriend someone. Turns out, to no great surprise, that we dump people on the Internet for the same reasons we dump them in real life. Or, at least what passes for real life.

Christopher Sibona, a PhD student in computer science at the University of Colorado’s business school in Denver, surveyed 1,500 Facebook users (over Twitter, natch) and found recurring themes of emotional distrust and disinterest, with the occasional distate for commentary thrown in for good measure.

The No. 5 Reason for being defriended falls under the category of “I Am Bored And Trying To Create Drama.” Spend enough time in the high school library or cafeteria and this feeling resonates. Add to that being older and still finding yourself chatting about superficial topics and countless forum and chat posters, and that boredom factor skyrockets. And what better way to shake things up than by creating a bit of artificial melodrama? Heck, we spend enough time with The Real Housewives Of The Hills On The Jersey Shore as it is, we know the drill.

Coming in at No. 4 is an oldie but a goodie: “I Don’t Like You.” Now, you’d think that would be higher on this list, but not liking someone has never really been reason enough to eliminate them from your particular group of “cool kids.” Being defriended for being unliked (or should it be unfriended for being deliked?) is like being left out of the usual Friday night trip to the movies … not that we remember how that feels.

At No. 3, we find “Inappropriate Posts, Such As Crude Or Racist Comments.” We get enough of that (bleep) on cable television, we don’t to hear it from our friends. Plus, as you’ve undoubtedly experienced, coarseness in print (on on the screen) can induce a sense of the ickies that isn’t likely to go away as quickly as an inappropriate remark from an unfunny classmate.

In the same vein, we find No. 2: “Posting About Polarizing Topics Such As Religion And Politics.”  Want to get into a fight over the Internet? Just try getting a level-headed discussion of either going in your chat room. We defend the right of our friend to be wrong … just don’t bombard my walls with your opinions.

Finally, we get to the No. 1 Reason For Defriending Someone On Facebook. And, when I read this one, I was immediately transported back to the halls of high school, listening yet again to another debate over whether Elton John or David Bowie would have a longer career.

“Making Frequent Unimportant Posts.” We’ve given over enough of our time already … stop boring me with your trivial concerns!. And listen to mine! Or, to borrow a quote from “The Social Network,” the current movie about the founding of Facebook: “As if every thought that tumbles through your head was so clever it would be a crime for it not to be shared.”

One last thought on the subject: When researching surfing this topic, I found that the jury was split 50-50 as to whether you get de-friended or un-friended. Writing too much about the debate, however, would cause me to break four or five of the previously stated rules.

I’ll leave that to the folks who dither over whether anal retentive is hyphenated.

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    Robert Galvin

    Robert Galvin has been with the Mail Tribune since 1999. When he's not writing this blog about pop culture, or his weekly television column (The Little White Dot) for ... Read Full
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